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The Cold Filtered Ramblings of Gene Mueller

I Love The Free Market...Until It Doesn't Let Me Have What I Want

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         Wisconsin went months without a state budget and survived.


        Will it make it through a Buckeye/Badger blackout intact?


        We'll know by the time we set our clocks back tonight.


        You know by now that the clash is only available on the Big Ten Network--the conference's latest venture aimed at extracting more money from the pockets of fans.     The Big Ten Network isn't a network at all--it's a feed of games distributed by cable companies and satellite channels.      The BTN is all over the dishes, but not on the wires: it failed to cut deals with Time Warner and Charter, two of the state's largest cable providers.     BTN wants deals similar to what ESPN, the History Channel and all of your "basic" offerings cut to get on your t-v.     The cable providers want BTN on their "premiere" tier, where you find the likes of HBO, Showtime and the MLB package, thinking that if fans want such services, they should pay extra for them.     


        The impasse lingers, and will only continue into the college basketball season when some Wisconsin hoop games will go the way of today's Buckeye/Badger clash--a rumor to those with cable (or AT&T's alternative) until a deal is cut.   


        It's less of an issue with the NFL Network and the Packers--the web and the cable companies are in the same standoff, but the league requires blacked-out games to be show on conventional television in primary markets, meaning Green Bay and Milwaukee stations can pick up the network's feed.      Tough crunchies, though, for out-state fans.      


        Frustrating as the standoff is, it reached a new level of insanity this week when some state lawmakers tired to inject themselves into the debate--what crap!        This is a pure free-market, supply-and-demand issue.     No one's rights are being trampled here.     The Big Ten Network has a product to offer--it's choosing how it wants it to distribute those wares.     It's having a hard time cutting deals with cable providers who could bring them tons more viewers and thus, more advertising revenue.       The cable companies say they don't want to pass on the cost of adding the Big Ten Network to customers who don't want it--let those who need it by it, they say.     Let the Network and cable slug it out--minus grandstanding lawmakers who want to score glory points with red-clad voters at the expense of basic free-market rules.       The two sides will come to terms, probably as soon as one of the combatants realizes it can't financially survive without the other.     That's what usually happens in the real world.     


        And, if you REALLY, REALLY can't survive without seeing Wisconsin and Ohio State (or Big Ten women's field hockey), unhook the cable and climb up on the roof--the satellite companies have operators standing by as we speak, ready to take your order and your cash.       It may be a little inconvenient to make a switch, but as is the case on the gridiron, it all comes down to this:


       Who wants it more?

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